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Going 'green' proves lucrative for farmers (4)

By Xie Yu  (China Daily)

13:49, February 04, 2013

According to statistics released by Zhejiang Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce, the average annual amount of money invested in agriculture by Zhejiang businessmen has exceeded 10 billion yuan over the past five years. The total amount reached 20 billion yuan last year.

But, on the other hand, questions have been constantly raised about whether China's "organic food" claims are trustworthy and how farmers can avoid polluted soil, air and water.

"There are at least 30 test bodies in China these days that are legally permitted to release certificates for 'organic food'. I am afraid some certifications we saw on the market are actually paid for with cash," said Cheng Cunwang, chairman of Tianyuan Zhengguo Bio-agriculture, an organization that promotes community-supported agriculture in China.

China's first standards for organic food were issued by the nation's environmental protection authority. But the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine later also drew up standards for organic food.

"It is questionable how many of the organic certificates are reliable these days," he said.

Cheng himself is promoting community-supported agriculture in several cities across the country.

Before each planting season, community members sign a contract with farmers, sharing the benefits and risks with them and paying in advance for the produce of that season.

He said CSA fosters closer ties between community members and farmers. As a result, members' confidence in the food is based more on their understanding of the farm rather than certificates.

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